"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

EEP: Front Group for Business Roundtable

The New York Times had the story about the recent neo-lib and neo-con party in New York to put together a strategy so that profiteers of all political stripes can cash in on part of the Dunc's $5 billion that is up for grabs in the Race to the Cash contest sponsored by ED. The front group is called the Education Equality Project, and if the odd political bedfellows such as Newt Gingrich, Al Sharpton, Joel Klein, and Randi Weingarten have their way, the poor in this country will be equally subjected to a universal change-the-child punitive pedagogy that puts the full weight of altering our racist and classist society on the shoulders of children, teachers, and parents. Meanwhile, the casino capitalists and their apologists accumulate tax money to fund the corporatization of American public schools. Here is a clip from the Times:

. . . .Now Mr. Klein and Mr. Sharpton “have rounded up Education Secretary Arne Duncan, several big-city mayors and former Clinton nemesis Newt Gingrich to appear with them at a convention this week,” Ms. McAdoo said, “where they will surely move to create a national presence for themselves as the defenders of children against, oh, say, the teachers’ unions.”

Back to strange bedfellows: Ms. McAdoo’s criticism notwithstanding, the teachers’ union president, Randi Weingarten, was on stage with Mr. Duncan, Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Klein at Thursday’s conference, which the union had helped to sponsor.

“Nobody is supporting us more financially than Randi Weingarten,” Mr. Sharpton said.

Ms. Weingarten said that the union had given about $10,000 a year for the last eight years to the National Action Network, Mr. Sharpton’s civil rights group — not to the Education Equality Project.
It is heartening to see others writing about the takeover of education by the oligarchs. Clay Burrell has this:
It hasn't been a good week for NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and the Education Equality Project (EEP) he co-founded (under suspicious circumstances) with Al Sharpton. (The EEP is the "test the students, silence the parents, close the schools, blame the teachers, ignore the socio-economic factors" wing of education reform.)

Not quite the party they'd planned? They held a conference this week - their biggest ever platform for the EEP, according to the pre-conference fanfare - that didn't seem to go over very well. Arne Duncan was met with boos when he announced his support of Mayor Bloomberg's control of NYC public schools. Al Sharpton himself backed away from supporting Klein's boss. A Q&A session featured critiques of Klein's claims of improvement and calls for his dismissal. See New York City Public School Parents for a good summary and web roundup about the event.

The EEP website doesn't pass the test for accuracy and rigor: Aaron Pallas at Gotham Schools saved me the labor of fact-checking the Education Equality Project's website, and here's the score: out of its 8 featured facts about the achievement gap, Pallas finds four are false, two are "toss-ups," and two are true. By my count, the Klein-Sharpton site would score 25% if this were a test. (Since two are toss-ups, I might make excuses for them and inflate the grade to a 40. But that goes against the "no excuses" mantra.)

Shades of AIG in NYC schools fiscal management: Klein's status as poster-boy of Eli Broad's "business administration" solution to urban school district administration may have taken a hit if the report by City Comptroller Bill Thompson on $700 million in contracting overruns for a two-year period is even partly accurate. (Thompson is running for mayor against Bloomberg.) Fred Klonsky highlights some whoppers:
  • Contracts for goods and services that have exceeded their cost estimates by nearly $700 million over the past two years.
  • A single $1 million contract with Xerox to lease copiers that ended up costing the DOE nearly $68 million.
  • A contract for cafeteria equipment that ballooned from roughly $15,000 to $850,000.
  • A software deal that went from $135,000 to $5.5 million.
And Sharon Higgins has this most recent addition at Education Notes Online to the growing literature on the misanthropic oligarchs, or as she calls it, vulture philanthropy:
From Sharon Higgins

Here’s a scholarly and informative article to share with you: "The Politics of Venture Philanthropy in Charter School Policy and Advocacy," by Janelle Scott (Associate Professor at UC Berkeley, formerly NYU) and published by SAGE. It will take a while to read (32 pages), but I believe it will be worth your time.

Scott explains the billionaires' strategy to push charter schools onto communities and how they are maneuvering their immense foundation-giving to achieve this result. She also describes the not-always-well-intentioned, and/or misguided, history of foundation "giving" which has targeted communities of color in the past.

The foundation-giving programs of today require an important trade-off from the local communities: namely, the relinquishment of interest and power over their own public schools to the public education notions of a few immensely wealthy oligarchs. What does it tell us that the communities where this is occurring necessitated first being placed under authoritarian rule?

Scott’s article explains how the "gifts" of these foundations are going to a broad range of charter advocacy groups, pro-charter research organizations, alternative teacher and principal training programs, charter school development organizations, etc. EdVoice, Center for Education Reform, TFA, NewSchools Venture Fund, NewLeaders for New Schools, KIPP, Green Dot, Democrats for Education Reform, and the EEP are just the teeny tiny tip of the you're-going-to-have-charter-schools-if-you-want-them-or-not iceberg.

Scott describes the flow of money to these organizations with the intent to have them work as a network in unison to further the billionaires' goal. Very few of the donations go directly to individual schools and their students, but just enough to make them look a lot better than their traditional school neighbors. The majority of the dollars go toward advocacy, propaganda, and the building of a national pro-charter school structure.

I've recently learned how Broad has bought off large, important portions of PBS, and how Ms. Gates is on the board of the Washington Post. The extent to which the media has been co-opted by this force would be a good topic for someone to track. We know how heavily they have influenced the White House.

I was especially interested to learn that one of the official techniques used to push charter schools, and described in a 2004 Philanthropy Roundtable donors guide, is "...the sponsorship of efforts that put parents of color out front instead of 'rich, white Republicans.' " The technique is exactly described here and here.

This general strategy may also explain why a deeply-in-debt-to-the-IRS Al Sharpton was persuaded to join the pro-charter force.

Another small item that may be of interest to some of you is that the Broad Foundation paid the Century Foundation $100,000 (in 2004) and $29,973 (in 2007) to "support research on the late union leader Albert Shanker." You may view The Broad Foundation 990's here.

Perhaps this is the "why" it has come about that pro-charter forces mention Albert Shanker so frequently for being responsible for the idea of charter schools. They use this statement to both justify the existence of charter schools, and to attempt to disarm the teachers' union complaints about them.

The details of these maneuvers are extensive, and won’t be easily grasped by the American public, not to mention the lesser educated parents in the communities now being targeted. The word about what is really going on desperately needs to get out more broadly.

Download the article here. But you have to register first. I have the pdf. Email me if you want a copy.


Susan Ohanian reports on Broad takeover of Phi Delta Kappan

Note: These are the people Weingarten and the UFT/AFT want to partner with.

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